In a totalitarian society that brands any dissent or emotional connection with another individual a “thought crime”, a humble civil servant enters into a sexual relationship with a co-worker at the risk of cruel and unusual punishment.
George Orwell’s novel is the grandaddy of all dystopian fiction and virtually every sci-fi ever made on the subject owes a debt to it. It features a regime that employs propaganda, fictional “enemies of the state” and constant war to keep its citizens subjugated and is a frightening examination of the logical conclusion to fascism. The film obviously employs imagery derived from both Nazi and Stalinist propaganda and creates a chillingly believable world where freewill is outlawed. John Hurt gives yet another acting master class as the rebel without a cause and the torture inflicted on him by a gently malevolent Richard Burton is truly horrifying. The biggest problem with the film for me is that in Winston’s world there is no humour, no heroes and no hope. This is no doubt the point of the exercise but it hardly makes for a nice place to visit for 105 minutes. The unrelenting bleakness is wearying on the soul and I couldn’t help thinking how both Brazil and V For Vendetta took the premise of the story here and injected either humour or inspiring rebellion to make a story which actually entertained rather than despaired.
As an intellectual exercise 1984 is an admirable film but as a piece of entertainment it’s joyless and pretty much all talk.